Basketball Tournament is a Win-Win for Special Olympics Athletes and AIC Students

Special Olympics in West Springfield

SPRINGFIELD, MA – In a celebration of inclusivity and sportsmanship, American International College (AIC) proudly hosted the 2024 Western MA Basketball League Tournament for Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) this winter. The tournament was played at the College’s Butova gym on January 21, February 4, and February 17.

The campus community rallied around three weekends of exciting games and community spirit. Student volunteers assisted with keeping score and time during the games, cheered as fans in the stands, and student-athletes engaged with the players, all creating an uplifting experience for seventy-nine SOMA participants.

Lynn McCarthy, the local program coordinator for Special Olympics in West Springfield, expressed that the SOMA athletes enjoyed the tournament experience at the College. “The support of everybody here at AIC has been phenomenal. They’ve [the SOMA athletes] never gotten this much support locally, and it’s such a joy to have these guys so excited about coming here and playing and having the AIC athletes interact with them.”

Assistant Director of Career Development Donna Carroll, who spearheaded the partnership with SOMA, saw it as a natural fit due to the close alignment of AIC and Special Olympics cultures of inclusion. “When considering AIC’s core values of access, opportunity, diversity, belonging, and community, I recognized the parallels with the purpose of SOMA, which aims to foster inclusivity and acceptance. It seemed logical to open AIC’s doors to these inspiring athletes,” Carroll said.

AIC students also benefited from the event, which provided community service hours to more than two hundred students, as well as practical experience for those in the Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy programs. The event also led to an internship for a Sports & Recreation Management Program senior and more than $800 in combined raffle ticket and jersey sales for the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC).

“The Special Olympics basketball Tournament allowed Master of Science in Occupational Therapy students and faculty to volunteer their time to participate in the most joyous event,” said Assistant Professor Division of Occupational Therapy Jennifer Nordstrom, OTD. “We had a chance to meet, cheer, and support incredible athletes who displayed determination, drive, sportsmanship, and kindness on and off the basketball court. Our students led multiple stretching breaks between games with the athletes and created signs to cheer the teams on. They connected with the players and enjoyed every moment of their volunteering experience. We’re grateful for this wonderful opportunity.”

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